September’s Wellington WI meeting was on the day after the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the WI, so we had a treat – a repeat visit from the Somerset Hills Chorus, whose close harmonies and varied repertoire were greatly enjoyed by members.
Although the role of women today is what we make of it, this wasn’t always the case, as we heard from Esther Hoyle from the Somerset Heritage Centre, which is the oldest record office in the country, having started in 1648 in a room in Wells Cathedral.
In earlier centuries women were usually dependent on their husbands for financial support, and if they were widowed had to apply for parish support for themselves and their children. If, though, they had not been born in the parish in which they lived, they and their children could be physically removed to their parish of origin, which might be hundreds of miles away, parish by parish, by the churchwardens of each parish.
Some women, though, lived independent lives, including Mary Hamilton, who dressed in her brother’s clothes to try to get back to Somerset from Scotland. On her way she was trained as a quack doctor, which profession she practised as “Charles Hamilton” in Glastonbury, where she also courted, proposed to and was accepted by her landlady’s niece! However, she was found out, and whipped publicly in market places in several towns across the county.
Not all independent women fared as badly – in the 17th century Mary Clark, who was married to an MP, very unusually managed his estate at Chipley near Wellington, as he was often away in London.
From this look at the past we then looked forward, to meetings of the Book Group, which is reading Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the craft group, which is also organising a ’learn to crochet’ session next month, a new venue – the Beambridge Inn – for the Quiz Team to try its luck, and the two writing groups, which are variously considering entering a short story competition and pondering on how to make their autobiographies gripping reading.
As well, we are looking forward to our Christmas carol concert and Christmas party in early December.
Next month’s meeting will take place on 15 October at 7.30 pm at the Beambridge Inn, with a talk on and demonstration of belly dancing, and maybe the chance to have a go! Visitors will be made very welcome, so do come along.